7 Signs It May Be Time to Have Your Water Heater Replaced

Buying a new hot water heater is not at the top of anyone’s list of favorite things to do. However, this appliance can and does fail with time. Knowing when the unit needs to be replaced is important because a failing unit can lead to damage to the home.

When this time comes, the homeowner may have a number of questions. One such question may be, how much is a new water heater? Other questions center around the installation process and how to avoid problems in the future. 

What signs should a person be looking for when it comes to water heater failure? The following are seven red flags every property owner needs to be aware of. With this information, it becomes easier to determine if a new unit must be purchased in the very near future. 

7. The Age of the Water Heater

Manufacturers of this appliance sell their devices with the caveat that they only last approximately eight to fifteen years. However, as people move so frequently now, it is hard to know how old the unit is without speaking to a prior owner. Fortunately, the manufacturers have recognized this is an issue and have taken steps to ensure a person can determine exactly how old the unit is at any time. 

Every water heater has a sticker on the unit, usually near the top, that provides the serial number for the appliance. In most cases, the first two numbers are the year in which the device was produced. This isn’t always the case though, so it never hurts to visit the manufacturer’s website on the internet to see how the maker’s devices are labeled. 

If the heater is nearing the eight-year mark or has already surpassed it, this does not mean you have to purchase a new unit today. Simply pay more attention to the appliance and any warning signs it might be ready to fail. While doing so, begin saving up for a new unit so you aren’t surprised when the time comes to replace the current one. It’s easier to pay for a replacement of this type if you have some forewarning. 

6. Unusual Noises

Water heaters are typically very quiet. As a result, a property owner needs to pay attention to any strange noises the appliance is making. Cracking and popping sounds are often a sign the heating element is going bad. 

However, noises of this type might also mean harmful minerals are accumulating in the device. As these minerals build up in the unit, they can wear away at the internal components of the hot water heater and lead to cracks developing. Flushing the appliance yearly can help to prevent this issue.

Hissing or sizzling noises are a major concern and need to be investigated immediately. Often, the noise is the result of water dripping onto a hot element or burner as a result of a leak. If the leak is not fixed promptly, water damage to the home could occur and cost a great deal more than simply the cost of a new unit. 

5. Dirty Water Coming Out Of The Faucet

Water coming out of the faucet should be clear. Any sediment or mud inside the tank can lead to discoloration, however, or the water may have some grit in it. When these symptoms appear, it’s likely the water heater has collected a large amount of sediment. 

Don’t panic yet. It may simply mean the water heater needs to be flushed. However, don’t delay in having this task done. Doing so could lead to more costly repairs or the need for a replacement unit. 

Sediment that is allowed to build in the appliance may lead to a leak. It could also result in various components failing so have the unit flushed as soon as possible. If flushing does not resolve the issue, a new hot water heater will likely be needed. 

However, one thing to check before calling for a repair is whether the issue is affecting the cold water as well. If the cold water has the same discoloration or both the hot and cold water have a metallic smell or taste, it might be within the water supply. It’s worth looking into this first before making a call to a plumber for a replacement unit. 

4. Detecting Leaks

A leak in a hot water heater can be disastrous, as water can do a significant amount of damage to a home in a short period of time. Unfortunately, many leaks start out small and are hard to detect. For this reason, it never hurts to have a plumber inspect the unit yearly to try to catch problems before they start or at an early age. 

At other times, the leak is very noticeable. A pool of water remains underneath the appliance and never dries up. When this is the case, the inner tank of the unit has likely failed and a new appliance will be required. 

Don’t immediately assume the worst. It might be that a valve needs to be tightened or another repair is all that is required to have the unit functioning properly again. A trained plumber can determine the source of the leak and offer solutions that will ensure the unit is working properly and the home is not at risk. 

3. Frequent Water Heater Repairs

Although it’s nice not to have to purchase a new hot water heater, there are times when doing so just makes more sense. If a homeowner is constantly contacting a plumber to make repairs, it may be time to completely replace the unit.

Stop and consider how much money has been spent repairing the appliance in the past year. Many experts say if the repairs cost more than 40% of the purchase price of a new unit the time has come to replace it. Others put this figure even lower, saying if they are more than 30% of the purchase price, the purchase of a new hot water heater should happen right away. 

Only you can determine how much you are comfortable spending to keep an older unit up and running. Be aware, however, that frequent breakdowns are a sign the entire unit is ready to go. Who knows how much damage is done with each mechanical failure to other parts that must work harder when one starts to break? 

Call in a plumber to evaluate the unit and provide a professional recommendation on the best course of action. Keep in mind the age of the unit at this time as well. By doing so, you’ll know when the right time is to repair and when a replacement is called for. 

2. Cold Water

When a hot water heater fails to produce water at the desired temperature consistently, a repair is likely needed or a new unit might be required. At times, the problem is very simple to resolve. The thermostat might need to be adjusted, the circuit breaker may have tripped, or the pilot light is out. 

If the problem doesn’t lie in one of these three areas, don’t give up hope that the unit is fixable. A bad heating element can lead to water that never reaches the desired temperature or hot water that runs out a minute into your shower. The plumber can determine if this is the case. 

Nevertheless, there may be situations where the unit does need to be replaced, and the plumber can determine why this is the case. 

1. Everyday Usage

Although this isn’t an actual sign that forewarns of water heater failure, it is something a person should take into consideration when determining if a new unit might be needed. This is how often the water heater is called into action. 

Maintaining the appliance can help to extend its lifespan, but if you have a large family the hot water heater is used more frequently. This factors into how long the appliance will hold up and when a water heater installation will be needed. 

For instance, a single person living in a household might find his or her unit lasts fifteen years before a new hot water heater installation is required. In contrast, a family of five might find their appliance needs to be replaced every eight years. This is because the unit is called on to produce hot water more frequently, meaning the components are put to work more often and are subject to more wear and tear. 

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Examine your water heater once a month just to make certain no problems are developing. If you notice any of the above signs, call a plumber to have a professional inspection carried out. Doing so can help to prevent bigger problems from arising. 

While the purchase of a new hot water heater is never exciting, it is something that must be done. Talk with the plumber about the different options available. You might find you save money by replacing the current unit as less energy is required to provide the water you desire. That is sure to be appreciated in the long run.